Infrastructure repairs to Impala Rustenburg’s 11 Shaft to be completed by end-Feb

Impala Rustenburg's 11 Shaft

Impala Rustenburg's 11 Shaft

Photo by Jacques McCarthy

31st January 2024

By: Chanel de Bruyn

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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Platinum group metals (PGMs) miner Impala Platinum (Implats) says infrastructure repairs to Impala Rustenburg’s 11 Shaft are expected to be completed by the end of February, with the build-up to full production targeted for April.

This follows a November 2023 accident associated with a personnel conveyance, or lift, at 11 Shaft, in which 11 employees were killed and 75 injured. A further two employees subsequently also lost their lives.

Implats at the time said that, on the day of the accident, the lift ascended to 17 level as scheduled, but then unexpectedly reversed direction and began descending back down through the shaft. The emergency protocol was immediately and automatically activated.

However, although the winder rope remained intact, the emergency protocol failed to immediately arrest the lift’s rapid descent.

The lift came to a sudden stop at 20 level, about 180 m below 17 level close to the bottom of 11 Shaft, when the counterweight, which balances the conveyance system reached the top of the winding infrastructure on surface, and as designed, was caught in jack catches.

That resulted in a sudden deceleration, the force of which severely impacted the 86 employees who were standing upright in the three levels of the lift at the time.

In an update to shareholders, published on January 31, Implats says several of the injured employees continue to undergo rehabilitation.

11 Shaft was returned to Implats in December to proceed with further investigations into the accident, as well as to start with the necessary repairs to the damaged infrastructure.

Implats reports that its subsidiary Impala Platinum submitted its investigation report into the accident to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) earlier this month. This paves the way for the DMRE to initiate formal proceedings, possibly during the course of this year.

The formal proceedings are expected to take several months to complete and Implats will, in parallel, conduct its own investigations, drawing on observations and findings from the regulated investigation.

Implats says it will simultaneously explore potential interventions to further enhance the safe operation of all conveyance systems across the group.

In the meantime, the DMRE has granted permission for Implats to use the rock winder at 11 Shaft, with personnel access to underground working authorised through the adjacent 11C Shaft infrastructure.

Mining crews have been systematically remobilised to 11 Shaft throughout this month. This will allow for a ramp-up in mined volumes to about 60% of production capacity over the next few weeks.

Implats points out that as a result of the halt in all mining operations at Impala Rustenburg during the week of the accident, it lost about 30 000 oz of platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium and gold (6E) PGMs production.

It estimates a further 30 000 oz of 6E production shortfall from the 11 Shaft complex will be recorded for the second half of its current financial year.

Meanwhile, Implats’ output for the first half of the financial year – the six months to December 31 – increased by 18% year-on-year to 1.9-million 6E ounces. Production from managed operations increased by 28% year-on-year to 1.51-million 6E ounces.

The company says it delivered strong production volumes and achieved commendable cost control during the six months to December 31, despite it having had to navigate several serious challenges, as well as an increasingly constrained operating environment as a result of the “significant retracement” in rand PGMs pricing.

Achieved volumes benefitted from the maiden interim consolidation of Impala Bafokeng; however, notable improvements were also achieved on a like-for-like basis at the group's mining and processing operations, excluding Impala Bafokeng's contribution.

Refined 6E production, including saleable ounces from Impala Bafokeng and Impala Canada, increased by 19% year-on-year to 1.75-million ounces.

Sales volumes increased by 12% year-on-year to 1.7-million ounces.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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